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How I found my wedding dress, by Zeena Shah

In a new series, brides recount how they ended up choosing their wedding gowns. Perhaps the most exciting, but overwhelming, sartorial decision you will make in your life, there is plenty to learn from those who have been through the process – from the pitfalls you must avoid to how you know when you’ve found ‘the one’. This time, stylist and author Zeena Shah opens up about how she chose her civil ceremony gown.


I’d always known I didn’t want to get married in a traditional white wedding dress. Being of Indian heritage, it’s a much more colourful affair when the bride wears a red sari or lengha. For our wedding, which was taking place after various delays and postponements due to the pandemic, we were to have two parts, the Indian wedding ceremony and a civil wedding ceremony. I had the Indian ceremony covered but it was the registry office outfit that had me stumped.

The world of wedding dresses can be incredibly overwhelming, there are just so many different types of gowns, different vibes and themes you could lean into. I often get called a style chameleon because of the way I dress for my mood and happiness, but I found myself in a bit of a decision paralysis at first.

zeena shah wedding

The Shannons Photography

The Shannons Photography

So, I started with what I didn’t want. I definitely wasn’t planning on going to loads of bridal shops to try on dresses that made me look like a diamanté-adorned meringue because it just wasn’t me. Also, I’ve done that a few times with friends in the past as a bridesmaid and I was very out of my comfort zone – it worked for them, but I knew it just wasn’t right for my style. I wanted to work with a designer to create something bespoke or to tailor something ready-to-wear. I was also really keen not to go for a shape and style of dress that I already had in my wardrobe. As a big fan of dresses, I have a wardrobe full of them already and wanted my wedding dress to feel different, more unique and to have that wow factor. I also wanted to surprise and delight my guests with my outfit because I really believe in dressing for joy so it had to be true to me too – and, our ceremony theme was ‘joy’. After all of the delays, it was finally time to celebrate so I was on the hunt for a dress to match both myself and the mood.

As a stylist, I wasn’t stuck for inspiration and started with my favourite designers and a Pinterest board of dresses I loved. As this was part two of our wedding (which we hadn’t budgeted for) I didn’t want my dress to cost the earth either and I can be a very savvy shopper. I bookmarked any great designer sample sales coming up and kept my eye on the sales. It was while browsing online that I found my dress, there was one left in my size and it felt very meant to be. I believe that sometimes the dress finds you.

Carrie Santana da Silva

Carrie Santana da Silva

I’d actually seen my wedding dress on the runway at the Ashish show the year before we were due to be married – I’d immediately fallen in love with its playful layers of tulle and pops of colourful sequins, it was a truly special dress and incredibly unique. But, when I’d enquired about its availability, it was going to be out a year too late so I had put it out of my mind.

So, many many months later (after the various pandemic-related postponements) I really couldn’t believe it when I spotted it online. The dress ticked all of the boxes of everything I was looking for – it was the perfect balance of fun, joy and positivity that I’d wanted. I ordered it immediately. When it arrived, I was a bit too scared to try it on so kept it in the box for a day or two before I took the plunge. But, as soon as I tried it on, I knew it was perfect.

For me, finding a dress that really reflected who I am and my personality was the priority rather than trying to fit myself into what I thought was appropriate for a civil wedding. I realised a beautifully tailored white suit or vintage inspired silk slip dress just wasn’t me – and I think you have to remember that it’s your day and if you’re wearing something that makes you feel incredible, only good things will come from it. I really wish I could do it all over again.

The Shannons Photography

Carrie Santana da Silva

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